“I’m the head swim instructor,” announced the impossibly muscular college student in the red bathing suit. “I just want to let you know that if there’s thunder any day, we have to be out of the water for twenty minutes.”
“Thirty,” put in one of her posse of tanned girls in ponytails.
“Right. Thirty. Also, during lessons, we have a rule that parents stay away from the edge of the pool.”
I didn’t understand this rule. Were they afraid parents would fall in? Dangle their feet in the water? What did they think would happen if they went near the edge of the pool?
That was on Monday, when I was fresh and naive. Most of Lilah’s four-year-old swim class that first day was spent out of the water, due to several anxious mothers little ones.
On Tuesday, however, they made it into the pool from the start and I learned the reason for The Rule. A swarm of parents moved to the edge of the pool. In a class of ten kids, there were four parents who hovered over the lesson pretty much the whole 35 minutes. One of them helpfully offered her four-year-old instruction the entire time, saying stuff like: “Kick with a straight leg like this.”
After the lesson was over, I went over to Athletic Head Swim Teacher Girlwoman. “Aren’t the parents supposed to stay away from the pool?”
“Because it was really hard for the teachers to actually teach the kids with the gaggle of parents at the edge. And the kids without parents there started getting upset, wondering why their moms weren’t standing at the edge.”
“The parents can be hard,” she replied, which I translated as: “I’m sure as hell not taking on a bevy of Newton parents for a lousy summer job. In four weeks, I’ll be back in my dorm room, making out with my girlfriend/boyfriend, and carrying five classes while acting as president of my sorority. They don’t pay me enough to take down helicopter parents.” Can’t say that I blame her.
Wednesday went better. Maybe the parents had relaxed or maybe they were all reading Kafka on their smartphones.
Which brings me to today and the one dad who stationed himself two feet from the edge of the pool. And yet another mother who spent the ENTIRE lesson kneeled down by the kids, talking to her son, taking photos, offering instruction, and generally completely distracting everyone else’s children as they tried to learn to swim. Then, when the nineteen-year-old teacher attempted to get the kids’ attention – not an easy task with the Mama Show going on – this mom smiled and pointed, saying, “Listen to the teacher,” as if she weren’t the whole reason the kids weren’t looking at the teacher in the first place. I sort of wanted to ask her why the hell she was paying for lessons if she felt the urge to be by the edge of the pool the whole time. She might as well just teach him herself if she wasn’t going to do the sensible thing and spend the 35 minutes catching up on her New Yorker reading.
Later, we headed over to the kiddie pool, a foot deep of water about six feet long by six feet wide. I sat down in the shade while – I kid you not – seven parents stripped off their shoes and stood over their preschoolers in the water, instructing them how to play with the buckets and the rubber duckies.
Before I moved here, I worried that I might be an uptight helicopter parent. Nowadays, I feel like the most laid-back, ganja-smoking, relaxed mother on the planet. I love Newton.